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For the sign language community that uses Hangouts, please note an improvement we've just added. +Chee Chew
chee chew originally shared:
 
hi y'all.

i've been gone on vacation for 3 weeks in august and am just finally feeling like i'm behind by a "normal" amount. it's been 2003 since i took such a long break.

for signers there are two categories of things that we've been working on.

first and foremost, we've been aggressively improving the video quality and stability. it's still a huge challenge to transmit 10 video feeds to 10 end points, potentially all around the world. we still have lots of improvements we want to make. but i hope you see a substantial improvement in video stability in the past several weeks. this will be a never-ending effort. without improved video quality the next thing doesn't matter.

second, as i hungout in signing hangouts, i also noticed that most people were trying to watch others sign from the thumbnail video. our voice activated video switching for the main video usually just stayed on whomever had the most background noise.

So, we added a "Take the floor" feature. Give this a try and let us know how it works for you. Here's how to use it.

1) have everyone mute their audio.
2) when you want to sign something, hit Shift+s.
3) when you see yourself as the main video, that's your cue. you've got the floor... everyone's main video has switched to you. sign away.

note that this only works when you are muted. and once you've "taken the floor" no one else can take the floor for a few seconds. we did this to arbitrate if multiple people do it at the same time... whomever you see in the main video has the floor. If that's you, go for it. +Naomi Black did this great video below about this feature :)

as always, as you use this, if you have feedback about it, let us know.

.chee
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59 comments
 
that is a very creative solution. it's not a problem I have, but it is amazing that you guys at Google ahve found a way to accommodate those who need that different approach.
 
This is just another reason why I love Google...
 
This is very nice, I just need to know sign language now. Though it really is great that you're doing this for people who need it.
Alex C.
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Empowering people with disabilities is one of the best uses of technology. Corporations should focus more on it :).
 
it seems like its a short step from here to moderated hangouts - let me encourage you to consider that +Vic Gundotra , perhaps you already are. But I can see great applications for remote learning with that capability.
 
Very impressed. This has a lot of potential I am sure. Sounds like a tough nut to crack but you guys are doing a great job of problem solving. 
 
What an excellent innovation!!! Well done =)
 
....communication at the speed of thought.Google+ is obviously aiming to be more than your average social network....
 
Brilliant! Just brilliant.
On a lighter note I could do with "Take the floor" at the breakfast table sometimes...
 
One of my favorite teachers in school had a beautiful system for class discussions..

Rather than just have people raise their hands and she call on them randomly- she kept a list.. So while someone is talking, I just needed to raise my hand, once she saw it, I put my hand down. Whenever the person is done, the next person in line gets to speak..

Maybe a queue of some sort would be good in this case?.. Have people hit Shift+S which adds them to the queue, then the camera switches to the next person once the signer is done talking...
 
This is wonderful. Another milestone for Google Plus.
 
Just imagine how awesome that could be if the deaf and the hearing could communicate normally with something like a Kinect using Google tech? That would really change the world!
 
This is fantastic ! I work with the public, and often get groups who are deaf and mute; they're also excellent lip-readers :-)
 
Why would they gesture a sign (which most people wouldn't understand) when they could type in the sidechat?
 
+Carlos A Lots what an unenlightened view! I'm sure you would want to communicate in your first language? Am I right? 
 
+Carlos A Loya This is particularly focused on a group of signers. So it's assumed that everyone in the Hangout would understand sign language and prefer that to text communication. Sign language, like verbal language, is better able to convey emotions than text.
 
Unenlightened? Why, 'cause i'm not a sheep applauding this? If I could sign, I wouldn't since there's technology which makes it obsolete in a hangout...and its "Loya"
 
+Carlos A Loya Again, signing is superior to text. I am not deaf but I use signs to communicate with babies and toddlers. They can't use text or verbal skills but they can sign. It's an extremely useful language.
 
+Kat Meredith actually from seeing the video a 2nd time, i agree with the emotion is in fact better delivered & conveyed when the face is shown. the mannerisms show so much more than what text can ever reveal
 
+Carlos A Loya so if I understand you correct, you never say a word because you can write notes to your kid and you never talk to your boss, because you just give him a note...
I don't need to sign but even as a person who can hear and speak I see that signing is much more than just gestures. You have the complete body language and the face expression.
Reducing this to "its better to write" simply shows that you don't unterstand what signing means to deaf people.
 
What I think could potentially be useful is a feature whereby only the Hangout initiator can decide whom takes the floor. This could be useful for moderated group discussions, and of course audio must be enabled.
 
+Martin Breuer nope, u didn't understand me at all. i wasn't contrasting speaking with texting.
on another note, i actually rarely ever speak to my boss since i work remotely. most of our communication on software projects is by email. =)
 
Absolutely, +Martin Breuer. I don't need to sign, but I certainly communicate better with those who do when we " speak " - watch their hands, eyes, and body language. Many also have limited hearing, but enough to help them also figure out lip-reading ( especially those of us who don't sign ).
 
Not sure I completely understand all the back and forth on this topic, but as usual Google is proactively addressing a need of one or more of its users.The solutions are sometimes less than perfect for all, but usually evidence significant effort on the part of the company to solve a problem. Kudos.
 
Wow, this is great! - I don't know sign language but I'm sure this will be very useful for those who do.
 
I would love for Google to make one of those G+ feature videos but on the topic of the advantages of Hangouts for signing. Would definitely help convincing a few deaf people I know to sign up.
 
Things like this make me happy to be a Google user. Not many companies get to be your size and still listen to their users so well.

I remember in Android's early days, when most of the phones still had very limited internal memory, many users were requesting the ability to move apps to SD memory. Not an easy thing to implement. I believe most companies, faced with a request like that, would either choose not to look into it, or would work in secret so they wouldn't lose face if it didn't get implemented. Well, not only did Google look into it, but the engineers were actually actively discussing with users the minutia of how to accomplish it, on public forums. That impressed me greatly. And the feature did get implemented. :)
 
+Carlos A Loya deaf mute communicates online by email most of the time, yes as you mostly do with your boss. Happy alternative is this hangout which visually allow them to 'speak' with their hands, this is of course the way they mostly converse with friends when they are in a real hangout, yes using their hands or sign language.

Sign language is a language. Hopefully, it can be translated into other languages, for non-sign language speakers.

I'd be excited if it could be translated, transcribed, and made into audio for the blind hangout mates in google.

Interesting. Anyway, our common language now is 11111000001111000111010001001001000001 :-) The Binary

Anything is translatable.
 
Excelente! Very happy your company decided to recognize and address the needs of a 'minority' group. Universal Design rules!
 
Very good, and now the voice recognition and translation in the language of belonging...
 
Awesome. Now just wait like 1 week and there will be even on facebook xD since they copy everything google plus adds, Facebook just sux and can't get it own ideas
 
+Patryk Ponichtera Quote you, same thought in Italy!!!, Google+ sleep and Facebook copy and improves. Soon be declared a flop of G+?
 
Even if G+ eventually fails, it will at least have pushed Facebook to improve it's crap. That's not bad, not bad at all.
 
Why can't you sign this? Have the camera trigger on certain gestures (instead of Shift+s) like this one....
 
Mikael: Computers can't read sign language (yet). You could maybe do it based on the level of hand movement in the video though... 
 
Given that computers can do face recognition etc. it wouldn't be hard to recognize a very distinct sign...or?
 
I like the idea, something new is always welcomed by users.
 
I think it's great that Google puts so much effort in features for a relatively small part of the population! It proves that Google is not all about making the most profit, with the highest efficiency.
 
American Sign Language is not the same as signed English. It is a different language, with its own grammar. The hand signs convey only part of the meaning -- without the facial expressions and body language, it's a very limited way to communicate. Just translating the hand signs into English certainly isn't adequate to convey the meaning.

Many Deaf people are much more fluent in ASL than in written English. Asking why they don't just use typed English to chat is like asking why French people would rather speak French when they could speak English instead.
 
That is awesome ~ making life better for more people ~
 
Kent, I wasn't talking about having the computer interpreting the sign language. I was referring to a sing to replace Shift+S that you now have to do to get the floor. Something universal...like the one finger salute;-)
 
I have just been added to Google plus, and I have 2 deaf parents, and I am very impressed with you taking this into consideration and improving your service to include more and more people, defo thumbs up for all involved in making these improvements!
 
How many years till we have the transcription from sign->text? Voice->text has taken 30 years to get somewhat accurate results, has anyone taken on video analysis of sign language to text?
 
It's a different language. It has to be interpreted and translated into English, not just transcribed. The word order is different and verb tenses are much different. Pursed lips or hunched shoulders can add as much meaning as an additional adjective or even a whole phrase would provide in English. The "finished" participle is a tense that doesn't precisely correlate with anything in English. And ASL does not have any written form other than video recordings.
 
Wow, that is awesome !
Also signing is awesome! those fingers were flying! (..and talking with your whole body!)

technical question: Is typical15fps webcam good enough to capture all those quick and subtle hand gestures?
Maybe an experienced signer would recognise the gesture anyway, but some movement was soo quick it just looked like a blur to me.
Is there a need for devices that can sustain 30+fps capture or is good lighting and decent webcam sufficient?
 
+Ben Davis -- no I don't think so. I have some difficulties. I am getting a new webcam soon.
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